A non-intrusive sensor for in-situ measurement of recession rate of heat shield ablatives. An ultrasonic wave source is carried in the housing. A microphone is also carried in the housing, for collecting the reflected ultrasonic waves from an interface surface of the ablative material. A time phasing control circuit is also included for time-phasing the ultrasonic wave source so that the waves reflected from the interface surface of the ablative material focus on the microphone, to maximize the acoustic pressure detected by the microphone and to mitigate acoustic velocity variation effects through the material through a de-coupling process that involves a software algorithm. A software circuit for computing the location off of which the ultrasonic waves scattered to focus back at the microphone is also included, so that the recession rate of the heat shield ablative may be monitored in real-time through the scan-focus approach.